Prologue: If you’re a fan of Rod Stewart or his music, you might as well skip this post. While I have nothing against Rod Stewart, believe me when I tell you the following words are not meant as any kind of homage or tribute.
The first one, a monogram on my lower back. AHA. Not a declaration of surprise or a Norwegian band you might recall from the 80s, but the initials my husband and I share. It looks decent after thirteen or fourteen or fifteen years. The timing is blurry, yet the pain is clear. The persistence of the needle. The strain from bending. Anybody who tells you they don’t hurt is lying. Sort of like childbirth, only who am I kidding, I've no idea what that feels like. The pain, however, doesn’t stop you. You succumb and learn to accept it. Acceptance. The first step toward recovery? The pain soon becomes a labor of love or at least of free, glorious expression. Anybody who tells you it’s a strange, satisfying rush is telling you the truth.
Numero dos, a handy reminder of all things summer in Michigan, the sun of a sought-after craft beer brewed in my hometown. Yeah, I said beer. What of it? There are many I know who’ve said they’d never get one because they wouldn’t have a clue what to get, and they’re afraid they’d regret having, say, an aardvark wearing a Hawaiian shirt on their shin in forty-two years. To each her own. Instead of playing it safe, I guess I’d rather roll the dice, not unlike hurling a first draft of a story out there for all to love or hate, or if I’m lucky, both. I’ve played it safe plenty elsewhere in my life anyway, and if I’m blessed to make it another forty-two years, who cares about that aardvark wearing a Hawaiian shirt on my shin? By then it will have taken on the visage of a beautiful black rose, or the creature from the black lagoon, depending on skin elasticity or lack thereof. #Whatever
Although some might feel it’s meant to be wry, number three is considered a classic. I prefer the term vintage, but this particular heart does represent loss for me, and maybe that’s why I recall it searing the most, not only because the artist put some serious elbow grease into his work. Because I had recently lost my father, a swift and sickening punch to the gut, and I feared losing my mother, too. I also wasn’t sure I’d ever be one, so I suppose there’s a snippet of snark hidden within the letters M-O-M.
Four can be found on another beer label, but it also resembles the inner workings of a compass. (Who couldn’t use a little help with direction?) Four brings back a trip we took to Ireland for our fifth wedding anniversary less than six months after 9/11. The terror alert had been raised a color again. Was it orange? Magenta? Whatever color it was didn’t dissuade us from the journey ahead, though I didn’t sleep a single minute of that overnight flight hovering above the ocean. After we landed and ate lunch at the kind of tiny, dank pub you’d imagine finding in Ireland, I couldn’t escape the irresistible arms of sleep. Despite my husband driving like an American tourist on the opposite side of the road (we did do our country proud by pruning the shrubs), my head bobbed the entire way to the bed and breakfast. Our B&B could have been plucked from the 1950s; we laid our weary heads in a back room of the actual home of a modest Irish family. I remember the clanking of the steam radiators and the sweet concern of the lady of the house. She took one look at us and demanded we get some rest. She’d even taken care to layer the bed with hot-water bottles, which we laughed at between the sheets. I drifted off watching some Irish game show on a TV with two or three channels.
Five is my latest, born from the hand of an artist named Earl and christened with tallboys among great friends. This one is about family, because I’ve since had the good fortunate of adding to mine. My daughter is almost four now. We are a family of three. A family of As. I couldn’t and wouldn’t dream of asking God or the universe for more. The wound is still fresh. She’s a bit of a scabby mess, but pretty, too, not unlike motherhood. No matter the mistakes and the successes, the joys and the heartaches, the worries and the welcome peace of mind, I can’t wait to see what happens next.